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Opening a window of hope in Gaza

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What does the project "Gaza Tech Women Lead" supported by ACT-members Dan Church Aid and Norwegian Church Aid in Gaza mean for young, well-educated women like Sara Al Massri?

There is a high unemployment and poverty rate among young women graduates in Palestine -- even in professions which are in high demand in other parts of the world, such as engineers and IT specialists. Therefore, ACT-members DanChurchAid/Norwegian Church Aid's joint country office in Palestine has worked through their local partner "Women Affairs Centre" (WAC) in Gaza which implemented the project "Gaza Tech Women Lead", promoting young women's employability through digital work.

One of the project's objectives is to enhance the technical skills and knowledge in freelancing among the targeted young women through a seven-month training and coaching programme every year. The technical training covers new trending tracks (like Laravel, iOS, Digital Marketing, Machine Learning, Flutter, Android, graphic design and so forth), and coaching and mentorship to support the young women in accessing effective digital entrepreneurship opportunities.

Willing to seize the chance

Sara Al Massri, a 28 year old computer systems engineer who graduated in 2015, participated at the programme. Today, she is a successful remote worker with the uMake coworking Space in Ramallah, and a freelance graphic designer.

"My path with graphic design began when I saw an advertisement on Facebook shared by WAC announcing the start of registration for the Gaza Tech Women Lead programme. Graphics are my passion. Since my childhood, I love colors, drawing and anything related to arts, so I applied and was accepted at the second turn", the young woman said. "I chose this specialization for different reasons: First of all, every type of business needs visuals to reach its customers, thus graphic design is necessary for any kind of commerce. Second, because it's my passion, and finally, I was determined to seize the chance and create something from scratch. Therefore, I am thankful to WAC for offering a real, practical topic which is useful and brings results in the worldwide labor market."

Sara got her first job in graphic design directly after finishing her technical training. It was on Upwork, a global work platform where everyday businesses of all sizes and independent talent from around the world meet. Soon after that, she received an Upwork skill certification, which means that she demonstrated competency in her field by passing a sample work review, evaluated by domain experts in her field.

Access to the global labor market

The successful graphic designer continued, "I knew WAC activities supporting women before, but the training I got was the first one for me with WAC. I learned the graphics programs from scratch (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator) and also acquired all the necessary freelancing skills that let me start with fewer problems on the freelancing platforms. We were eight participants in this training -- almost all of them IT-engineers. In the Gaza strip, it's hard to find a job in the local labor market which is full of graduates with high degrees like a master's. Freelancing or remote working is the only chance to get a qualified job in this area. Together with online applications, it opens up new opportunities for us and we can benefit from the global labor market. So, I decided to find a place for me outside the borders of Gaza, and the 'Gaza Tech Women Lead' program helped me to open the window of hope," Sara concluded.

Launch of a "Re-Startup Gaza"-Initiative

In the meantime, Sara is a full-time employee as a digital marketing coordinator. She works remotely with a co-working space based in the West Bank called uMake. After the recent Israel-Gaza conflict in May 2021, Startup Palestine which is powered by uMake launched a "Re-Startup Gaza" initiative that aims to support Gaza Startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and talents like freelancers or remote workers.

For the future, the young graphic designer wants to establish her own design agency and do work related to human rights as well as completing her high studies in human rights.